Trailing Home Ch. 09byharemgirl©
The next day, they came to a creek with two bridges over it and paid a dollar per wagon to cross over. They camped that evening near Sulphur Springs. There was a picturesque meadow surrounded by snow capped mountains, but the mosquitoes were so bad, it was impossible to enjoy the beauty around them.
They crossed into Idaho territory, and the main trail continued on to Fort Hall. Once it reached the fort, the trail split into two main routes, one going to Oregon, and the other branching off to become the California Trail. Selena breathed a sigh of relief. It had always been in the back of her mind that she might run into Jeb again, and she was glad that they were passing the place where he would likely turn off.
Liam suggested they take a shortcut off the main trail that would bypass Fort Hall altogether and join up with it again past the cutoff to California. Since neither the Boyds nor the Robertses needed to replenish any supplies, they all agreed. Liam led them to Soda Springs, and there they found natural bubbling pools of carbonated water that were formed by ancient volcanoes. Liam explained to them that the local Indians and fur traders had visited the springs for hundreds of years to swim in the bubbling pools. The alkali water was considered to be good for one's health, but he cautioned them not to drink too much of it. Many emigrants and their livestock became sick from indulging too heavily.
Soda Springs was a popular stop for the emigrants, and there were a number of people already there. Although it was tempting to swim in the warm, bubbling water, Selena despaired of finding a private pool where she might indulge without either viewing or showing an indecent amount of naked skin.
It was past midnight when Liam shook her gently awake in their tent. Blinking her eyes in the dim firelight, she frowned at him.
"What's the matter?" she murmured, her voice still husky from sleep.
Liam grinned down at her and kissed her forehead. "Come on," he said. He helped her up from the pallet. She noticed that he was wearing his breeches and boots.
"What is it? Where are we going?"
"Trust me," he whispered.
He urged her to slip on her shoes and nightgown, and he led her out of the tent. Not sure what he was up to, Selena followed him without any further questions. He picked up a lantern and matches that he had dug out of the wagon, and he led her to the edge of the woods. Pausing to light the lantern, he lifted it and clasped her hand again before leading her down a dark trail through dense forest. Selena was still groggy, but she followed him without question.
He led her to a rock lined pool filled with clear, bubbling spring water and set the lantern down on a large boulder. Steam rose from the surface to wreathe in curling tendrils in the cool night air.
"Your bath awaits you, my lady." He grinned down at her as he shed his boots and breeches.
Understanding finally dawned, and with a squeal of joy, Selena quickly unbuttoned her nightgown and dropped it to the ground before grasping his hand to let him lead her into the pool. She gasped at the feeling of the warm spring water. Tiny bubbles tickled along her skin, and she giggled with delight.
The pool was large, over twenty feet in diameter and shaped like a large oval. It was lined all around by smooth boulders. There were tall evergreens and pine trees surrounding the spring, and their branches seemed to brush the sky as they closed like a cocoon around the pool. The dark night sky was lit by a million stars, and their sparkling reflections shone on the surface of the water. It seemed like an enchanted place.
"Liam, this is heavenly!" Selena sank into the water and sighed. "I might not go to Oregon after all. I think I will stay here forever."
Liam laughed, grasping her waist and bringing her against him. "I thought you would like it. Come on."
He pulled her to the center of the pool where the water was so deep they couldn't touch the bottom. They cavorted like children, splashing and dunking each other. They chased and teased, dove and resurfaced, and their laughter rank softly in the night, muffled by the woods around them.
At length, they tired and Liam retreated to the edge of the pool where large rocks jutted out beneath the water forming a bench of sorts. He pulled Selena across his lap and kissed her long and thoroughly, cradling her head on his arm as he caressed her inner thighs and her slick folds. Selena straddled his waist, impaling herself upon him as her eyelids dropped half closed.
Their upper bodies were above the water, and Liam leaned back against the rocks, thoroughly enjoying the view. By the light of the lantern, he skimmed his fingers down Selena's neck and out to her shoulders. He traced her delicate collar bones and explored the upper swells of her breasts. Watching her eyes, he set a leisured pace, avoiding the sensitive peaks to skim over her ribs and brush his knuckles along the undersides of her breasts. All the while, Selena made love to him, her breasts bouncing wantonly, and he steadfastly avoided touching her nipples. They were standing erect, practically begging for his touch, but he ignored them, letting his hands trace everywhere but over them. Selena grew increasingly frustrated.
"Please," she whispered, tension coiled in her belly. "Please, Liam."
Knowing what she wanted, he pulled her to him and ravished one nipple, suckling hard and rasping with his teeth until she clasped his head to her breast and cried out with delight. Her pussy clenched tightly around him as spasms wracked her body, and he followed her to his own fulfillment, his hoarse groan mingling with hers in the darkness.
Although it was early August, there was a chill in the night air, and Selena shivered, pressing closer to Liam. She lay panting on his chest for a long time, letting the waves of satisfaction slowly dissipate. He kissed her temple and rubbed his hands along her back to ward away the chill. She had never felt so safe or so adored.
"I love you," she whispered.
"I love you too, Selena."
"And will you love our baby?" she asked, smiling against his chest.
He went very still, but then he held her at arms length to see her face. His own face was full of surprise and wonder. "Are you sure?"
Selena nodded her head, finding it hard to speak from the emotion welling inside her.
His eyes raked down her body, as if he were seeing her for the first time. He couldn't detect any changes, and he laughed. "But how can you tell? You don't look pregnant."
Selena's smile held a wealth of feminine smugness, and she snuggled against him once more. "Haven't you noticed that your pleasure hasn't been interrupted for two months now? If I were to venture a guess, I would say that the babe was conceived soon after the vows were first consummated."
Liam hugged her against him and his chuckle rumbled in her ear.
"So you're happy then?" she pressed him.
"My dearest love, of course I'm happy. I hope to keep your belly full with many more children in years to come. And they will all be born out of our love for one another."
He gave her a tender kiss before lifting her off his lap.
"Come on. You need to get back to bed. You're carrying my child. You shouldn't be staying awake all night playing. You need to rest."
In the following days, Selena couldn't help but roll her eyes at Liam. No mother hen had ever fussed over her chicks as much as Liam did over her. Everything she did came under his scrutiny, and the simplest chores were deemed too strenuous for her. He scolded her for lifting the iron cook pots over the fire. She wasn't supposed to stretch and reach to get things out of the wagon. Every time they went over a particularly jarring bump, Liam would give her a concerned look. On and on it went until Selena was ready to pull her hair out.
"Liam, I'm not an invalid," she protested one afternoon as they bounced along in the wagon. "I'm just pregnant."
He gave her an injured look. "I know. I just want you to take better care of yourself." He frowned as he looked back at the plodding oxen. "I wish we were already home. You aren't eating right or getting enough rest on this trip. It's not good for you or the baby."
Selena heaved a sigh. His concern was touching, but it was also getting annoying. She definitely wouldn't be able to endure another seven months of this.
"Liam, women have babies every day. I'll be fine. You're making me nervous with all this fussing." She threaded an arm through his and leaned over to kiss his ear, taking the sting out of her remarks. When she spoke, her voice was low and sultry. "And you haven't made love to me for nearly a week. I'm starting to feel neglected."
Liam gave her a sidelong glance and a rueful smile. "I have gone a little too far I guess."
"Um hum," she smiled.
"But it's only because I love you," he said defensively.
"I know," she said laughing, "and you can show me just how much tonight."
After that, Liam relaxed and began to enjoy his wife being pregnant. Still, she would often catch him keeping a close watch over her, and he would grin and shrug. He started making love to her again, and every night, she fell asleep with his arms wrapped securely around her and his hand lying protectively over her belly.
Selena found some blackberry bushes near one campsite, and she, Marcia, Susan and Cassie set out to collect some. They were each able to fill their bucket, and Selena carried hers back to camp to make rich blackberry cobbler. She delighted in watching Liam consume the dessert, and she giggled at his exaggerated moans and sighs of ecstasy.
Two days later, she chanced upon another berry patch. Remembering her husband's appreciation, Selena hastened back to camp to grab her bucket. The other ladies were too busy to join her, so she set out on her own to collect some. If she hurried, she would have time to make another cobbler for their dessert that night.
The early evening sun was sweltering, and she swatted at biting flies as she plucked the rich berries, being careful not to prick her fingers on the thorns. The time passed quickly, and soon, she had filled her bucket. She was halfway back to camp when she heard a thrashing and grunting in the bushes ahead of her.
Selena stopped, not sure what was making the noise. Her heart thudded in her chest, and she stood frozen in place as she saw a large black bear emerging from the brush not twenty yards away. The bear didn't seem to notice her, as it sniffed around, scrounging for food. The bear grunted and raised its nose into the air when it caught a whiff of her scent. It hesitated for a moment but lost interest and resumed its lumbering gait.
Selena unintentionally released a tiny squawk of relief from her constricted throat, and the bear's head snapped up once more to pin her with a menacing glare. The bear emitted a low growl, and that was enough to send Selena flying through the woods in panic. She screamed and took off at a run through the thick underbrush, heedless of the brambles and branches that scratched her arms and face. She chanced a glance over her shoulder and couldn't see any sign of the bear, but she was too frantic to slow her headlong pace. She ran until her sides were aching, and looking behind her once more, she failed to see the shallow drop off ahead of her. She stumbled over the edge and fell, screaming again as she rolled down a small hill.
Selena came to a jarring stop and blinked her eyes several times to clear her head. She felt dizzy and slightly nauseous, but she was able to sit up. She cautiously stretched her limbs, and detecting no broken bones or strained muscles, she stood up. She glanced all around and was relieved that there was no sign of the bear, but her heart sank when she spied the bucket. She had forgotten all about it, clutching it only from habit as she ran, but now her eyes filled up with tears. The berries were crushed all over her skirts and the ground, and for some reason, the sight made her angry. All that for nothing!
Selena's heart leapt into her throat once again when she heard a crashing through the trees. She turned toward the source, convinced that the bear was still after her. She collapsed in relief when she saw that it was Liam.
"Selena!" He ran to her, his face full of concern as he took in her appearance. Her hair was a mess, with leaves and bits of branches sticking out from the silky tresses, and her dress was covered with grass and berry stains. There were a few tiny scratches on her face and arms, and she was crying. He dropped his rifle on the ground and knelt to hug her against him. "What happened? Are you alright?"
"Yes, I'm fine now. I saw a bear and it frightened me." Selena wiped at the tears that had started, and she laughed a bit self-consciously. "I was running through the woods and I fell.
Liam placed a hand over her belly and frowned. "Did you hurt yourself?"
"No. I'm fine, really." Selena placed a comforting hand over Liam's.
"Thank God. When I heard you scream, it frightened the life out of me."
"I'm sorry, Liam." She stood up with his help and wiped the last of her tears away. "I wanted to get some more berries to make a cobbler, but now they're all ruined."
Her chin trembled, and Liam pulled her against him once more. "Never mind that. Let's go back to camp and get you cleaned up."
Selena felt sore and bruised, and she gratefully accepted his help back to camp. She cleaned herself up while Liam fussed over her, and he rubbed a soothing ointment into the scratches on her face so they wouldn't pucker and scar.
That evening after dinner, Selena was shocked when Natasha appeared with two plates of blackberry cobbler. She gave Selena a brittle smile and Liam a more friendly one.
"Mama felt bad about your accident today, so she went and gathered some more berries and made a cobbler. She was going to bring it over to you herself, but I offered to save her the trouble."
"Thank you," Selena murmured, eying the other woman uncertainly.
Natasha handed her a plate and gave Liam the other plate with a larger serving. Natasha sat on a nearby rock and chatted cheerily as they ate the dessert. "Daddy says we're almost two thirds of the way to Oregon. Is that true Liam?"
Liam frowned but directed his attention to the cobbler as he answered her. "Yeah, almost. We've still got a long way to go, but I'm happy with our progress so far."
"I can't wait to get there," Natasha sighed. "It will be so nice to be able to wear my nice clothes again instead of these rags."
She plucked at her skirts with distaste. Since the dress Natasha was wearing was considerably better than Selena's very best, she kept quiet. Any enjoyment Selena might have gotten from the dessert was spoiled by Natasha's crassness, and Selena barely tasted the treat as she ate it. She and Liam finished their cobbler, and Selena handed both plates back to Natasha.
"Please give Marcia our thanks. That was very thoughtful," Selena said.
"I'm so glad you enjoyed it." Natasha was bold enough to give Liam a flirtatious smile. "I know how much Liam likes sweets."
When Natasha was out of earshot, Selena gave exasperated sigh. "That woman tries my patience. Everything she says manages to hurt someone's feelings."
"Don't worry about her. She's just a selfish child." Liam hugged Selena against his side, kissing her hair as he stared into the flickering fire.
"She's not a child, Liam. She's a beautiful woman, and she seems hell bent on trying to get your attention."
Liam pulled her onto his lap and kissed her. "Well, she can't have my attention, because every bit of it belongs to you." He touched her nose with his fingertip. "You looked more beautiful today, with your hair all mussed and your dress all dirty than she ever will in all her fancy finery."
Selena rewarded him with a smile. "Yes, but you might not think so in a few months, when I grow big and fat."
"Come to think of it, that was an awfully big helping of cobbler you just ate." He yelped when Selena punched his shoulder, and they both laughed. He nuzzled her neck, his hot breath sending shivers of delight through Selena. "I can't wait to see you grow fat with my child. You're going to be the prettiest little Mama ever."
Selena came awake in the wee hours of the night with sharp cramps in her belly. The intensity made her gasp and writhe in agony.
"What is it?" Liam asked groggily.
"I don't know," she ground out. "My stomach hurts."
Liam sat up and groped for the lantern, which he lit. When he saw her, he was filled with dread. Selena moaned as another cramp went through her, and her eyes filled up with tears.
"Oh my God. I think I'm losing the baby," she cried.
Liam scrambled to don his breeches. "I'll get Marcia," he said before running out of the tent.
He returned with Marcia just moments later, but there was nothing that could be done. Selena had already started to bleed, and she was wracked by cramps and nausea. Marcia shook her head sadly in response to Liam's questioning look.
"I'm sorry, Liam. Just try to keep her comfortable. This happens to most women at least once in their lives. There's nothing we can do but let nature take its course." Marcia made a tactful departure, leaving Liam and Selena alone.
"It's all my fault," Selena said miserably. "I wasn't watching where I was going. It's all my fault." She started to cry as she clung to Liam.
"Shhh, sweetheart. It's not your fault. It was just an accident." Liam comforted her as he struggled with his own grief.
"I'm so sorry, Liam. I know how much you wanted the baby."
Liam forced her to meet his eye as he stroked her hair back. "Of course I did, but it wasn't meant to be. It was just an accident. It wasn't your fault." He kissed her brow and gave her a smile.
Selena didn't feel much better, despite his words, and she sobbed harshly in his arms. The next morning, Liam suggested they stay an extra day to give her time to rest, but Selena refused. Her face was drawn and pale, and there were dark circles under her eyes when she spoke to Liam.
"Let's just go. I want to get away from here," she whispered forlornly.
At a loss as to how he could comfort her, Liam agreed to her request. However, he insisted that she lay on a pallet in the wagon instead of sitting on the hard bench all day. Selena curled into a miserable ball and slept throughout most of the day. She refused to eat lunch, saying she had no appetite.
Over the next two weeks, Selena became more and more withdrawn. She went about her chores with lassitude, and there was no joy or laughter on her face. Liam grew increasingly concerned, and he confided in Marcia one evening after Selena had retired early to sleep.
"I don't know how to reach her," he said, running a hand through his hair. "She barely responds when I talk to her. She's not eating, and she sleeps all the time but always looks exhausted. I feel so helpless."
Marcia placed a comforting hand on his arm and gave him a sympathetic smile. "Liam, she has to grieve, and I know she feels guilty. It was the same for me when I lost a baby once. She has to reconcile herself to the loss and move on, but it will take time."
"So you think she'll be alright?"
Marcia nodded. "She'll be fine. Just keep letting her know that you love her. One of these days, she'll snap out of it, and she'll be right as rain again."
"I hope so," he sighed. He gave Marcia a smile. "Thank you. You've been a dear friend to both of us."
"Don't mention it, Liam. You know that you and Selena are like my own children." A sad, wistful look crept into her eyes as she thought about Natasha and wished her daughter were more like Selena. Shaking away her wistful thoughts, Marcia turned Liam by the shoulders and gave him a small shove toward his tent. "Now go to bed and hug that wife of yours. She needs to feel you close to her."